Rand leaned over and spat into the brass cuspidor, a gesture of braggadocio he had picked up among the French maquis.
“Hell, no! That’s the last thing I do want!” he said. “I want him to try it. You realize, don’t you, that all this is pure assumption and theory? We don’t have a single fact, as it stands, that proves anything. We could go and pick this fellow up, and he’s one of three men, so we could grab all three of them, and even if we found the .25 Webley & Scott and my .38 in his pockets, we couldn’t charge him with anything. Fact is, right now we can’t even prove that Lane Fleming’s death was anything but the accident it’s on the books as being. But let him take a shot at me....”
“And then you’ll have another nice, clear case of self-defense.” McKenna frowned. “Goddammit, Jeff, you’ve had to defend yourself too many times, already. This’ll be—well, how many will it be?”
“Counting Germans?” Rand grinned. “Hell, I don’t know; I can’t remember all of them.”
“One thing,” Kavaalen said solemnly, “you never hear of any lawyers springing people out of cemeteries on writs.”
“Look, Jeff,” McKenna said, at length. “If it’s the way you think, this guy won’t dare kill you instantly, will he? Seems to me, the way the script reads, this other guy shoots you, and you shoot back and kill him, and then you die. Isn’t that it?”
Rand nodded. “I’m banking on that. He’ll try to give me a fatal but not instantly fatal wound, and that means he’ll have to take time to pick his spot. The reason I’ve managed to survive these people against whom I’ve had to defend myself has been that I just don’t give a damn where I shoot a man. A lot of good police officers have gotten themselves killed because they tried to wing somebody and took a second or so longer about shooting than they should have.”
“Something in that, too,” McKenna agreed. “But what I’m getting at is this: I think I know a way to give you a little more percentage.” He rose. “Wait a minute; I’ll be right back.”
There was less feuding at dinner that evening than at any previous meal Rand had eaten in the Fleming home. In the first place, everybody seemed a little awed in the presence of the new butler, who flitted in and out of the room like a ghost and, when spoken to, answered in a heavy B.B.C. accent. Then, the women, who carried on most of the hostilities, had re-erected their front populaire and were sharing a common pleasure in the recovery of the stolen pistols. And finally, there was a distinct possibility that the swift and dramatic justice that had overtaken Walters and Gwinnett at Rand’s hands was having a sobering effect upon somebody at that table.
Dunmore, Nelda, Varcek, Geraldine and Gladys had been intending to go to a party that evening, but at the last minute Gladys had pleaded indisposition and telephoned regrets. The meal over, Rand had gone up to the gunroom, Gladys drifted into the small drawing-room off the dining-room, and the others had gone to their rooms to dress.